SWINDON’S member of the UK’s Youth Parliament (UKYP) has taken part in a series of debates marking a “historic occasion” in the House of Commons.

Jennifer Renard, who has been Swindon’s member for the past 18 months, was among more than 300 elected 12 to 18-year-olds from all over the country who debated issues including free university education, youth crime, free transport, the economy and lowering the voting age in Britain’s seat of government.

It was the first time anyone other than MPs have debated in the chamber.

However, the youth members agreed the favoured issue going forward was lowering the voting age to 16.

Jennifer, who is the daughter of Haydon Wick borough councillor David Renard, said: “It was amazing to be there and a part of it all.

“It was great to see everyone again and to talk about the things that we think young people are concerned with.

“I think it made everyone realise that not everyone believes in the group’s campaigns which made it a really good debate because there were so many great points on both sides.

“We kept going over the time limit.

“I think we should do it again next year.”

The Commons Speaker John Bercow hailed the UKYP for being “substantially more representative” than the current make-up of the House of Commons.

He said: “This is an historic occasion.

“It’s one that we hope you will enjoy and all of us will treasure.

“On March 13 this year, Parliament decided that this great event should take place.

“In the whole history of the House of Commons you are the first body of people, other than Members of Parliament themselves, to be allowed to use this chamber.”

He then paid tribute to “just how inclusive” UKYP is, highlighting that more than 50 per cent of members of the Youth Parliament are female, 22 per cent from ethnic minorities and three per cent with disabilities.

“All of those statistics are better than we have in our Parliament,” Mr Bercow added.

“You debate important issues, you show real initiative, you enjoy great debating prowess.”

“Politics, whatever you think of it, and whatever you think of particular parties and whatever you think of individual leaders, does matter.”

A small group of Tory backbenchers led an attempt to keep the Youth Parliament out of the chamber but were defeated earlier this year – allowing the group “one-off” access following their use of the House of Lords in 2008.